Green Bank, West Virginia: Green Bank Observatory

Formerly known as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Giant dishes point heavenward in a place where you shouldn't count on mobile phone service. The Visitors Center features the first radio telescope, and fragments of one that collapsed.
Address:
Hwys 28 and 92, Green Bank, WV
Directions:
I-64 exit at White Sulphur Springs, then 58 miles north on Hwy 92. Or I-81 exit 222 in Staunton, Virginia, then 69 miles west on US 250, then 10 miles south on Hwy 92.
Phone:
304-456-2011
Admission:
Visitor Center free. Bus tour - adults $6.
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Visitor Tips and News About Green Bank Observatory

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First radio telescope.

Bicentennial Radio Telescope

In 1937, Grote Reber built the world's first parabolic dish radio telescope in his backyard in Wheaton, Illinois. The telescope was later moved to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, where it now stands just outside the Science Center. In 1976 it was painted red, white, and blue to celebrate America's Bicentennial; this makes it the most patriotic radio telescope in the observable universe.

[John Takao Collier, 12/20/2013]

Piece of collapsed telescope.

Chunk of Collapsed Radio Telescope

In November 1988, the 300-foot-diameter radio telescope in Green Bank collapsed from a structural failure. However, just like the Six Million Dollar Man, it was later rebuilt better and stronger. A chunk of the old, collapsed radio telescope is framed and hangs on a wall in the Green Bank Science Center, near the Starlight Cafe, which I was told is the only restaurant in Green Bank (This would explain why a couple of police officers and a family in their going-to-church clothes were having lunch there on a Sunday afternoon). The Visitor Center is open daily during the summer, and Thursday-Monday off-season. Admission for adults for the bus tour is $6.00.

[John Takao Collier, 12/20/2013]
National Radio Astronomy Observatory

When I visited the Observatory in the early 70s, I fell in love with the place. Since then, I've only been able to visit a couple of times, but the place still is fascinating. One cool thing is that they have mapped out on the grounds a scale model of the distances of the planets from the sun that really puts things in perspective.

Also within a reasonable radius from the Observatory is a tiny general store that has about everything imaginable in it, Cass Scenic Railroad (did that as a kid, too), two national forests, some of the most gorgeous scenery anywhere, and excellent skiing at Snowshoe. Wildlife is abundant, including colonies of ravens.

[Old Crow, 05/07/2007]
National Radio Astronomy Observatory

This place has huge radio "telescopes" listening to outer space. There's a nice visitors' center and they have a short lecture before the tour in which they have some audience participation. You can ask questions of the scientists. It's in a quaint little town in the middle of the mountains. Due to the NRAO, there is a Federally mandated "radio quiet" zone that surrounds the facility. There's no radio stations and you can forget about cellular phone coverage. I'm not even sure that TV satellite dishes are allowed.

[Jim McAnally, 11/30/2003]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Sharp's Kissing BridgeSharp's Kissing Bridge, Slaty Fork, WV - 15 mi.
Western Mini-Town DisplayWestern Mini-Town Display, Huntersville, WV - 19 mi.
Big ChairBig Chair, Elkins, WV - 33 mi.
In the region:
Dairy Queen Eskimo Sign, Grafton, WV - 64 mi.

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